Four rare shore birds endemic to New Zealand were released yesterday on pest-free Motutapu Island in the Hauraki Gulf after a successful breeding programme produced an abundance of chicks. The juvenile shore plover or tuturuatu are one of the world's rarest shore birds, with just 250 remaining. A small, curious animal, the shore plover nests on the ground and is easily disturbed, which makes them vulnerable in the wild.

The Pūkaha National Wildlife Centre near Masterton and the Isaac Conservation and Wildlife Trust outside Christchurch have had a bumper year breeding plover chicks. Pūkaha ranger Mireille Hicks said between them they had raised 46 chicks. Hicks said the 30-year-old recovery programme hoped to lift the bird's survival chances.

"Many people do not know about how critical the situation is which ... we'd like to change".

The plover captive breeding programme uses five pest-free islands. Since the first release on Motutapu the little birds have been seen in the wider Auckland area, raising hopes for the plover's prospects.